We are pleased to publish Erik Reece’s latest book Clear Creek: Toward a Natural Philosophy this week. This wide-ranging and boundary-defying work calls us out of our frenzied, digitized world to a slower, more contemplative way of being. Joe Wilkins called Clear Creek, “A wise, rambling book that is equal parts memoir, natural history, and philosophical investigation. . . . Readers of Barry Lopez and Wendell Berry will find much to admire here.” In this Q&A below, Reece talks with Caitlin Solano of Vesto PR.
The book takes place over the course of a year. Did your journals and notebooks come together naturally, or did you have to revise certain aspects?
The journaling down by the creek occurred pretty organically. But though the book takes the form of “a year in the life,” I actually spent ten years writing it! Not continuously, but rather when some observation or idea came to me. So there was time for some pretty extensive revision, editing, shaping.
You’ve written about your religious upbringing and thoughts on Christianity before in your book, An American Gospel. What was different about your approach for writing about it this time?
In American Gospel, I was settling scores, in a way, with family ghosts. Which I don’t really recommend. But I was also working through some mental anguish that I’d carried around for a long time. There’s really none of that in Clear Creek. Though I’m always, in some sense, writing about religion (I guess I’m a God-drunk agnostic, as someone said about Spinoza), I now very much think of Clear Creek as an unroofed church, where I’m a congregation of one.Read More »
Clear Creek: Toward a Natural Philosophy is the newest book by Erik Reece, professor of English at the University of Kentucky and author of An American Gospel and Lost Mountain. Described by Amy Leach as “full of starry, grassy, fiery ideas,” Clear Creek will be published August 1 in WVU Press’s series In Place.
During the summer that I turned forty-five—middle-age by any conceivable standard—I moved to the woods and, with the woman I planned to marry, set up house on a ridge side covered in hickories, buckeyes, and chinquapin oaks—a slope that dropped off over a sheer rock wall, then opened up onto Clear Creek, a beautiful body of water where, along its banks, a small wedding party (bride, groom, preacher, photographer, and witness) could be squeezed onto one large platform of white limestone. The officiant was the pastor of a progressive church started right after the Civil War by the abolitionist minister John Fee. The photographer, Morris, was a friend from graduate school (we had once performed a disastrous scene from Hamlet in front of our Shakespeare seminar, a scene in which I, as Polonius, forgot my lines) and the witness was his wife, Anissa, who had baked an apple-caramel pound cake for the occasion. Melissa wore hiking boots beneath her wedding dress—her twin sister’s second grievance of the day, the first being that she wasn’t invited. After a ten-minute ceremony in which the minister riffed on the theme of our marriage to each other and to this land, we all hiked back up to the house to drink champagne, eat cake, and sign the marriage license. Since Melissa and I weren’t members of our officiant’s church, or of any church, I slipped him an envelope containing a few large bills. My life had just taken, I could plainly see, a serious turn in the right direction.
To celebrate the annual meeting of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, all of West Virginia University Press’s new and recent works of fiction, literary nonfiction, and poetry are 30% off with free shipping through April 30, 2023. This discount applies to paperback and electronic editions.
Our exhibit at the AWP meeting will feature display copies for perusal, with all sales handled online at our website. Just use code WVUPAWP2023 at checkout. This sale is open to all, regardless of whether you’re attending the conference.
West Virginia University Press is pleased to publish Davon Loeb’s The In-Betweens, which tells the story of a biracial boy becoming a man, all the while trying to find himself, trying to come to terms with his white family, and trying to find his place in American society. (The official publication date is February 1, and it ships now when ordered from our site.) Kirkus Reviews calls the book “engagingly delivered, candid reflections on heritage and identity.” Here Loeb talks with Vesto PR’s Caitlin Solano for our blog.
This is a kind of second life for the book—you’re working with a new publisher, and you added a lot of new material and edited what had been published before. Can you talk about how the book has changed?
The prefix re-, for “again” or “repeat,” can have a negative connotation, like the word “revision” can seem like “to do again” is a bad thing. I argue the opposite, that to revise and reproduce is a good thing, and the bodies of work we create are never fully complete. The first version of The In-Betweens was incomplete, lacking a narrative arc, one which I believe is now present in the new book. To republish a book feels rare, but I was given a second chance by West Virginia University Press, which shows their dedication to publishing great books no matter what shape they start off in.
What drew you to the lyrical essay form? Did you experiment with other styles of writing?
I was drawn into the lyrical essay form because so many of the chapters in my memoir were originally poems. When I entered my MFA, I was declared as a poet, but as I completed various craft and workshop courses in different genres, I gravitated towards memoir. Writing memoir felt like the perfect balance between binding narrative and lyrical storytelling.
To celebrate the annual meeting of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, all of West Virginia University Press’s new and recent works of fiction, literary nonfiction, and poetry are 30% off with free shipping through April 30, 2022. This discount applies to paperback editions.
Our exhibit at the AWP meeting will feature display copies for perusal, with all sales handled online at our website. Just use code WVUPAWP2022 at checkout. This sale is open to all, regardless of whether you’re attending the conference.
With this year’s annual meeting of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs moving online, we’re extending our conference discount to everyone. Use code WVUAWP2021 at checkout on our site to save 30% on new West Virginia University Press titles in fiction and literary nonfiction.Read More »
Krista Eastman’s new bookThe Painted Forest—described by Publishers Weekly as “thoughtful and elegant”—is now available in West Virginia University Press’s series In Place. Here the author talks with series coeditor Jeremy Jones.
Jeremy: “What strangeness, I asked, is this?” This is the question you pose to yourself walking around the Painted Forest—the fraternal society hall covered in murals of, among other images, a man riding a goat. It’s a good question. So good, I’m pointing it back at you. There’s so much beautiful strangeness in your book. Were you looking for strangeness when you found places and experiences to write about? Was that a central criterion for these essays?
Krista: I hadn’t thought about it that way but the attraction to strangeness is definitely there. I do thrill to weird things. I look at something as deeply strange and antiquated as fraternal societies and I can’t look away, but mostly because I see in all of it this arresting proof of our collective strangeness, as well as proof of how bizarre and byzantine we will all look one day, how wrong we’ll have been, how obviously conflicted we all were (are). Read More »